The Pakistani government, facing pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to stop supporting jihadists fighting and killing American troops in Afghanistan, intends to closely collaborate with the United States to end to 16-year-old war, according to Islamabad’s ambassador to the United States.
In an interview with USA Today, Pakistani Amb. Aizaz Chaudhry noted that Islamabad would help promote peace talks between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban terrorist group “in whatever manner it can.”
The envoy indicated that “Pakistan would use its considerable influence over the Taliban to prod the insurgent group to the negotiation table,” reports USA Today.
However, Pakistan has urged the United States to combat Islamic terrorist sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused one another of harboring jihadists.
“We would like to see effective and immediate U.S. military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harboring terrorists and miscreants on Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan,” said the office of Pakistan’s temporary Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after a meeting with civilian and military leadership.
“The statement referred not only to the Afghan Taliban, but also the loosely affiliated Pakistani Taliban that Islamabad contends uses sanctuaries inside Afghanistan to plan attacks on Pakistani soil,” notes Reuters.
While the Afghan Taliban focuses on attacking U.S. and local trooops in Afghanistan, the Pakistani branch—Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)—is focused on overthrowing the Pakistani government. Both groups are led by different leaders and consider themselves different organizations.
According to the U.S. military, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to the largest concentration of jihadist groups—20 Islamic terrorist organizations.
In his televised speech Monday announcing a new strategy to end the war in Afghanistan that began in October 2001, Trump said, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
“Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people,” he added.”We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.”
The Pentagon has long accused Pakistan of providing sanctuary to terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, a claim that Islamabad denies.
Pakistani officials have denounced the president’s speech for admonishing Islamabad.
“Civilian and military authorities in Pakistan have reacted angrily to U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusations that Islamabad provides safe havens for terrorists operating in Afghanistan,” reports Defense News.
“As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not allow use of its territory against any country. Instead of relying on the false narrative of safe havens, the U.S. needs to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism,” declared Pakistan’s Foreign Office in a statement.
In response to Trump’s remarks, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the United States must not use Pakistan as a “scapegoat” for its failures in Afghanistan.
According to Pakistan, it has suffered at least 70,000 casualties in terrorist attacks, including 17,000 fatalities, since it joined the U.S. “war on terrorism” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the American homeland.
“We feel the American administration led by Mr Trump has been totally one sided, unfair to Pakistan and does not appreciate and recognize Pakistan has been a pivotal player,” Pakistani Sen. Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the senate defense committee, told Reuters.
The Trump administration has decided to withhold from Pakistan $50 million in outstanding fiscal year 2016 military reimbursements over Islamabad’s support for terrorist groups, particularly the Taliban and its ally the Haqqani Network, considered the top threat facing the United States in Afghanistan.
At the end of his administration, former President Barack Obama withheld $300 million from Pakistan over the same reasons.
The United States has funded Pakistan to the tune of about $2.1 billion each year since the war in Afghanistan started in October 2001.
Pakistan received about $30 billion from the United States in the first 14 years of the ongoing Afghanistan war, according to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015